Last week, I wrote that a few of the key obstacles to ending the war are Blue Dogs,, Harry Reid and Rahm Emanuel. The Washington Post reports:
"If you strictly limit a commander's ability to rotate troops in and out of Iraq, that kind of inflexibility could put some missions and some troops at risk," said Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Tex.), who personally lodged his concerns with Murtha.
"Congress has no business micromanaging a war, cutting off funding or even conditioning those funds," said Rep. Jim Cooper (Tenn.), a leading Democratic moderate, who called Murtha's whole effort "clumsy."
"I think Congress begins to skate on thin ice when we start to micromanage troop deployments and rotations," said Texas's Edwards, whose views reflect those of several other Democrats from conservative districts.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) pointed out that Democrats still have public opinion strongly on their side and that a vote on any plan would place Republicans in more jeopardy than Democrats. A new, more restrictive authorization for the war also is gaining serious consideration in the House, Emanuel noted.
Chet Edwards and Jim Cooper are both Blue Dogs from Southern districts, so I get that they aren't going to be outfront on liberal issues. But what they are saying here is not only arguing that Bush ought to continue the war, but reaffirms all the right-wing tropes. Murtha's plan endangers the troops. Don't tie the hands of the Commander-in-Chief. There's talk of passing the Murtha plan, but giving waivers to Bush to deploy non-combat ready troops. I told you - not serious. And then there's this.
But that approach may be all but dead, according to several Democratic lawmakers. Murtha doomed his own plan in part by unveiling it on a left-wing Web site, inflaming party moderates.
I don't know if I believe that, as Post reporters Shailagh Murray and Jonathan Weisman are kind of crappy. But I'm sure this argument is at least being used within the House. Look, if you want to know why the Democratic brand has problems, it's because Blue Dogs are always reaffirming right-wing frames, and idiots like Rahm Emanuel are talking to reporters about what's popular as opposed to what needs to happen to end the war. It's important to note that now the House wants to move to where the Senate is, which is to rewrite the Authorization for the Use of Military Force.
I got some flack last week for saying that the Democratic leadership, in particular Harry Reid, isn't really serious about ending the war. Scott Lemieux, Matt Yglesias, and Steven Benen all disagreed with my assertion because they argued that Reid couldn't pass the nonbinding resolution. Eric Alterman even labeled me one of many lazy reporters for asserting that Reid wasn't serious about ending the war. One of Reid's spokespeople called me up pretty upset that I would dare assert something like this.
Of course, I didn't argue that Reid should have passed the resolution. I said that his priorities are misplaced. He never did the work to force the Republicans to vote on the war, giving them the easiest possible out. Rather than deal with Iraq, Reid let the Senate go into recess. Rather than put up an initial strong position, defunding the war, he started with a fig leaf and McConnell smacked him around.
And let's be real. This talk of authorization is coming from Joe Biden, and while I agree with it, it's only a starting point which will only get worse as McConnell takes a whack at it. Already the House is moving from Murtha's hard stance to the Senate's position. This is soft negotiating. Do you really think, if Reid couldn't get a nonbinding resolution through, that he's going to be able to get a rewrite of the AUMF through? Of course not. He needs to task for more. Reid should demand the Murtha plan. That will push the Blue Dogs back in the House, and actually give us a real shot of restricting Bush's power. Reid can't pass it, of course, but that was never the point. If you start with defunding, maybe you can get to rewriting the AUMF with some cession of the escalation. If your main fight is over the AUMF, I don't see how you get there. In other words, where you start dictates where you finish. And Reid has chosen to put his priorities somewhere other than ending the war.
That's fine. That's who he is. But let's stop having illusions about the conservative Democratic leadership in Congress. I mean, Yglesias, Lemieux, Alterman and Benen seem to have an awful lot of confidence that the Democratic docility of the last twenty years, the docility that caused Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid to sabotage Ned Lamont, has suddenly changed. I'm still looking for evidence. Chet Edwards, Jim Cooper, and Rahm Emanuel are problems in this debate, and they need to be primaried. So is Harry Reid, and Joe Biden. I'd like some progressives to step up and go after these people publicly, because it's time to fight to end the war, and push the ball down the field.
As for us, let's get rid of our illusions. Democrats in the House and Senate will move only if we move them. As of now, they are laughing at us openly, and I will point you to Reid's clumsy misleading statements about his obvious role in the Fox News debacle, and his lack of concern about our extremely reasonable demand not to give Fox News legitimacy. If he's so disdainful of Democrats on something so trivial, what makes you think he's serious about Iraq, an issue he really doesn't want to touch. It's time to get to work.
UPDATE: Chet Edwards is not a Blue Dog.